Green Team West Side Summit!

This years Green Team West Side Summit was a true success! Becca, Nicole and I are incredibly proud of all of our Green Team classes and are very thankful to everyone who donated food to our event including Noodles & Company, Einstein Bagels and Voodoo Donuts.


The event began in the morning at Valley Catholic High School and around 250 students were in attendance. After a quick snack, students took their seats in the auditorium and the presentations began.  First, Lori Hennings, a senior natural resource scientist Metro, gave an inspiring speech connecting students work on Green Team to the environmental as a whole. We are all so grateful to have had her as the keynote presenter. Then, each school presented on a different aspect of the Green Team year that they found important and explored an aspect of stream restoration in depth.

City View Charter talked about the native birds of Council Creek and even played the bird calls so that we could hear what they sound like.  Valley Catholic High School students talked in depth about macro invertebrate surveys and mulching. Forest Grove High School and Aloha High School both performed inspiring skits about the ensuing drama between invasive and native plants at Gales Creek and Butternut Creek. Glencoe High School presented about the evolving state of McKay Creek. Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School presented on William Greer’s bee box project at Willow Creek and showed pictures of how Willow Creek has evolved due to the continued efforts of Green Team. Finally, we showed a video of Tobias Elementary schooler students singing “The Eight Days of SOLVE” and Forest Park Elementary School’s video titled “How to Plant”.   Both video can be viewed on the SOLVE Green Team website.

Overall, the event was informative for all in attendance and the day was rounded out with more snacks and lunch! I am so proud of each and every one of my students and was overwhelmed with the amount of positive feedback that came my way during the presentation.

Great job this year West Side schools, I will truly miss working with you all!


Dane Breslin

Dogwood or Ninebark? Snowberry or Cedar? Which native plant did you plant this week?

Green Team Week November 18th to November 25th

Written by Jesuit Volunteers Dane Breslin and Becca Strohm

East Side Sites

Spring Mountain Elementary @ Mt. Scott Creek November 19th

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Spring Mountain Elementary students made a visit to Mt. Scoot Creek to do some  native planting this week.  Having removed invasive plants last month there was plenty of room to put in some lovely natives. Before planting we learned some plant I.D skills to be able to tell our different natives apart.  We looked at our plants to see if they were opposite, alternate or whorled, had simple or compound leaves and if the plant had a different leaf shape.  Some plants we learned were snowberry, ninebark, western red cedar and rose.  Students then went to work planting 65 native plants!  Great job Spring Mountain Green Team- we’ll see you next month at Mt. Scott Creek!

Portland Lutheran School @ Sandy River for Salmon Toss November 20th

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Portland Lutheran students traveled far upstream on the Sandy River to Lost Creek Campground to participate in a salmon toss.  Jeff Fulop from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Corinne Handelman from the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council came out with the salmon for students to toss into the Sandy.  Students also participated in a salmon dissection to learn the parts of a salmon and their functions.  Despite the bitter cold students about 350 salmon into the river!  After a warm-up in the car, students visited Oxbow Park.  Representatives from the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council and Portland Water Bureau gave tours of a large wood project and a conserved flood plain.  Thanks for all the hard work Portland Lutheran!  We’ll see you next month back at Beaver Creek.

Rex Putnam High School @ Boardman Wetland November 21st

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Rex Putnam students visited Boardman Wetlands on a blistery Thursday morning to do some native plantings.  Students learned some plant I.D skills to be able to recognize our native plants.  Students planted twinberry, ash, spirea and rose.  Planting in a wetland uses a slightly different technique than our normal way of planting.  Instead of digging a hole students had to create a little slit in the ground and place the plant inside.  Then they used their shovel to close up the slit, kind of like a zipper.  Overall students planted 67 plants!  Great job Rex Putnam- we’ll see you in December!


Tuesday 11/19- Valley Catholic Middle School at Johnson Creek

Tuesday, Valley Catholic Middle School cleared around five hundred feet of blackberry at Johnson Creek.  Valley Catholic High School had cut the area free, but the vicious blackberry roots had to be painstakingly dug up.  It was a great and MUDDY adventure, and now the area is finally prepared for native planting!

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Wednesday 11/20- Rachel Carson Middle School at Willow Creek

Wednesday, Rachel Carson Middle School learned plant identification, planted fifty native plants and removed around three hundred feet of invasive Armenian Blackberry.  Additionally, teachers on site worked with students to measure native plant growth.  I was thoroughly impressed with this groups plant identification skills and their ability to memorize our native opposite leaved plants- S.A.M & T.E.D.

S- Snowberry

A-Ash (Oregon Ash)

M-Maple (Vine, Big Leaf Maple)


T- Twinberry

E- Elderberry (Red, Blue Elderberry)

D-Dogwood (Red Osier Dogwood)

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Thursday 11/21- Valley Catholic High School at Johnson Creek

This Thursday, Valley Catholic High School seniors planted forty five native plants at the same site Valley Catholic Middle School cleared earlier in the week.  We were all amazed at the transformation of the site, as what was once a blackberry monoculture started to resemble a healthy forest ecosystem!  More planting and continued maintenance will be required to see this transformation reach fruition.

Great Job Valley Catholic!

Friday 11/22- Tobias Elementary School at Beaverton Creek Tributary

This Friday, Green Team visited Tobias Elementary School to learn plant identification and to plant native. However, when we arrived all the plants were frozen in their buckets!!  Luckily, we were able to bring a wheelbarrow of native plants into the school and teach plant I.D. right in the classroom.  After the temperature warmed up a bit we did head outside and thawed our sapling with warm water before placing them in the ground. To teach us all how to plant, we were lucky enough to have Margaret from Clean Water Services come as a special guest!  Overall, we were able to plant one hundred and fifty native plants!

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Amazing job to all of my classes this week! Thank you!

Happy Thanksgiving!


SOLVE Westside Student Summit … a Green Team Celebration!

Text and photos by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest AmeriCorps member Lauren McKenna and SOLVE staff Briana Goodwin

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Last week at Valley Catholic High School, SOLVE celebrated another successful — and fun! — year with the Westside Green Team students at the 3rd Annual SOLVE Westside Student Summit, with videos, photos,, powerpoints, reflections, poetry and song!

To kick off the Summit, keynote speaker Rob Emanuel, from Clean Water Services, addressed the students with advice on following your interests, getting involved in things like SOLVE and experiencing opportunities related to natural resources and environmental science.  What you are doing now can be important for you future career!  Follow your passions!

Student Litter Art: from trash to treasure!

Student Litter Art: from trash to treasure!

Kris Taylor, stand-in Green Team Program Coordinator, and Lauren McKenna, Westside Green Team leader, introduced each of the presenting student groups from six schools in Beaverton, Hillsboro and Forest Grove.  They presented on various topic related to watershed health, stream restoration and things they learned during their year at a SOLVE Green Team site:

Valley Catholic High School (Beaverton): Environmental Science students presented on how much carbon is sequestered by the trees at their Johnson Creek site —

City View Charter School (Hillsboro): As their very first year part of Green Team, they presented on the restoration they have done at Council Creek and their favorite things they learned.

Aloha High School:  Two AP Environmnetal Science students talked about beavers at Butternut Creek.

Forest Grove High School: PCC dual-credit class talked about restoring Gales Creek and sang an original song, “Wetland Success” to the tune of a Lady Gaga song!

Glencoe High School (Hillsboro): Students made a video-photo slideshow of the progress of their McKay Creek restoration efforts.

Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School (Beaverton): One student shared reflection of his three years at Willow Creek, another on pesticides found in Willow Creek, and a third read her original poem (see below)

“As the River Flows” by Elise Kuechle

As the river flows , the salmon swims

against the current.

As the salmon swims, an insect

skims the surface.

As the insect skims, the birds

chatter to one another.

As the birds chatter, the lichen

slowly grows.

As the lichen grows, the spider

weaves her web.

As the deer watches, the sun

climbs the sky.

As the rain falls, the children

begin their work.

As the children work, the river

flows over the dappled rocks.

As the river flows, the world

begins to breath.


Rain pours from a rip in the sky.

Mud is the glue that holds us together.

Rachel Carson students, including the SOLVE Student of the Year Peyton (on Left) enjoying the refreshments!

Rachel Carson students, including the SOLVE Student of the Year Peyton (on Left) enjoying the refreshments!

We also awarded Rachel Carson eighth grader, Peyton Tierney, as our westside SOLVE Student of the Year for her positive attitude while at her Green Team site and her going above and beyond in researching pesticides in Willow Creek (which she has bees asked to continue research on!).  Congrats… you have been a great part of Green Team!

Students, teachers and attendees also wrote down comments about how they help and what they love about the environment:

“Sing from your heart.

Step back and see the mountain move.”

One generation plants the trees

another gets the shade.”

“Nature plays a big role in our lives, never take it for granted.” – Mercedes

“Plants grow in the same way we grow:

with love and nurturing!” – Brian

“You know it’s been a good day when you’re covered in mud.” – Tyler

“Always remember… Boots are your friends!” – Eli

Thank you to:

all our amazing Green Team teachers and students!  You have not only learned a lot, have been very dedicated and have helped restore our watershed, but have inspired many and SOLVE has had fun getting to know you!

SOLVE staff who helped make this a great celebration! Especially Kris Taylor, Meghan Ballard and our Eastside Green Team leader Nicole Poletto.

Rob Emanuel and Clean Water Services: for your support  and  guidance!

Sesame Donuts, Starbucks Coffee, Einstein Bros Bagels,   and Boyds Coffee Company for donations of fun and smiles.

Happy Earth Day!

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors;

we borrow it from our children.”

~ Chief Seattle

Newly mulched plants!

Newly mulched plants!

Earth Day, celebrated on April 22nd in 192 countries around the world, is the perfect day to hug a tree, plant a tree or … mulch a tree!  Valley Catholic’s Middle School students spent a gloriously sunny Earth Day (and their last SOLVE day ): ) mulching about 300 native trees and shrubs planted along Johnson Creek.  Some students got really into it, shouting out “More mulch!” and “It’s Mulch Madness!”  Adding mulch (ie barkdust, this kind made from Douglas-fir trees):

~ prevents invasive weeds from growing up around new native plants

~ adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes

~ retains water for the plant… especially with the coming drier summer

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The class also got a history lesson about Earth Day (and then proceeded to clap for the Earth and wish her “happy birthday”!).  Some Earth Day facts:

founded in 1970 by Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson after witnessing a toxic river on fire in Cleveland and an oil spill in California

– inspired by the anti-Vietnam War rallies at college campuses, he hoped to spark interest in service and educational activities centered on environmental issues (back then few people even knew what recycling was!)

– by 1971, there was a 2,500% increase in Americans who felt environmental issues are of concern

– led to the creation of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Environmental Protection Agency


THANK YOU to Valley Catholic Middle School students and teachers for your energy and enthusiasm this school year!  There would still be SO much invasive Armenian blackberry without you … you rock!

Blackberry… the Never-Ending Story!

Photos and text by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest AmeriCorps Member Lauren McKenna

Valley Catholic Middle School, 3/8/2013

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The sun is shining… and the blackberry is growing!

Valley Catholic Middle School is no stranger to invasive Armenian blackberry.  Back in December, they spent a whole day removing it from Johnson Creek behind their school.  Now, in March, they are STILL removing blackberry (we all know it is the job that is almost never done!).  However, they did get to plant about 30 native trees and shrubs in the area they cleared of blackberry, and learned about how to identify some of them, since it’s spring and they are getting leaves!

They also found a baby rough-skinned newt!  They secrete tetrodotoxina from their skin that can, if ingested or gets on an open cut or wound –and a lot of it — can be fatal (so don’t eat any… even if you are curious). They like to eat aquatic invertebrates, too (macroinvertebrates for dinner, anyone?!).

Thank you, Valley Catholic!  Your creek site is looking fresh and NEW-t!

Valley Catholic Middle School Conquers Blackberry!

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Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Lauren McKenna

Valley Catholic Middle School @Johnson Creek 11/16/2012

Blackberry Conquered!  Valley Catholic’s 7th and 8th graders finally go the chance to prove how insane their blackberry-removing muscles are.  Though no six-pack abs were gained, as some students hoped digging out hardy blackberry roots would give them, a lot of invasives were removed.  Before getting to work, they learned about how invasive Armenian Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) prevents native plants from growing, creates a monoculture of just blackberry, preventing plant diversity, and has roots that do not stabilize the soil.  Here are some before and after shoots.  Drumroll……..

BEFORE — arr blackberry!

AFTER — Uncovered wooden beams and logs… interesting…

The first class set the bar pretty high, clearing out a huge chunk of Armenian blackberry.  5 rounds of the game “RIparian Metaphors”, 5 classes, 3 rakes, 10 loppers and 20 shovels later…students piled up high two huge mounds of blackberry brambles and roots that will die, decompose, and go back into the soil.  The group not only cleared away much of the blackberry, but also uncovered a treasure trove of wooden beams, some cut up logs and what seemed to be a raised garden bed.  I bet the school did not even know they were there! The classes did an awesome job and had great enthusiasm the whole day, too!  Some sounds clips from the day were….

“Wow, we set the bar pretty high for the other classes!”

“1, 2, 3…Invasives!”

“When are we coming back?  Tomorrow!?”

“The blackberries got me!”

“We’re the three rake-ateers!” (three girls who raked clippings)

“We’re saving the environment and spreading health.”

Thank you, Valley Catholic, both the students and the three substitute teachers, for your hard work and energy!  It was a blast and we hope to see you again soon!

Valley Catholic Middle: Mulching & Maintenance Madness!

Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Northwest Member Charlie

Tuesday saw the ever-energetic students from Valley Catholic Middle school visit the restoration site in their backyard next to Johnson creek. Between spurts of sunshine and showers (and sometimes hail), some students got to work mulching the native plants they had planted last time they were out while others took a stab at removing the young blackberry plants that have started to sprout back in the restoration area. Students knew that the mulching was important for the young native plants for not only providing nutrients but also for providing a nice layer of organic material that will help keep moisture around the plant when things dry out in the summer (which is hard to imagine right now). They were also excited about getting rid of the small blackberry shoots before they can grow into a large unmanageable bramble.

While we were mulching and removing blackberry, students came across a lot of a strange plant growing in the under story. With no true leaves and a scale-like stem, it looks like a visitor from Mars. This plant is called Equisetum, more commonly known as horsetail, and is considered to be a living fossil. The several species of this odd-looking plant around the world make the only remaining genus of the Equisetopsida class which once was much more diverse and dominated the under story of Paleozoic forests, some as tall as 30 feet! These plants are remnants of a time when plants didn’t reproduce by seed like the rest of the flowering angiosperms we see in the forest, but by spores. Scientists have seen fossils of these plants over one hundred million years old, and they look largely unchanged. Knowing this, with our history as a species of being merely 200,000 years old, it’s humbling to stand in their presence and know that these guys have something figured out.

Equesetum (Horsetail)

As always the students at Valley Catholic Middle School were very knowledgable and hard working. We wish all of the eighth-graders good luck in high school and we look forward to working with many of you in some of our high school Green Teams in the area!

Blackberry Subjected to Valley Catholic 8th Graders

It had been silently growing for several years. After arriving in the scat of some long-forgotten bird, the Armenian blackberry had been slowly taking over the riparian forest of Johnson Creek. Nothing could stop it: it grew faster than the helpless alder saplings, it grew taller than the poor snowberry shrubs, it grew thicker than the native trailing blackberry. It looked like all was helpless and that the entire forest community had to bow down to this thorny tyrant. But there was hope!

This Tuesday, a pack of 8th graders from the nearby Valley Catholic School arrived on the scene, shovels, clippers, and rakes in hand, and the ideal of freedom in their minds; the freedom for all native plants to have a chance to cohabitate together in a biodiverse ecosystem. They battled the invasive bully, and fought valiantly. The brambles, however, stood their ground and fought back hard. Despite some casualties of scratched and occasionally punctured skin, the noble 8th-graders were able to push back the leafy oppressors and won back much of the forest for a freer, healthier plant community. Other invasive species heard the battle and fled in fright of also being subject to the 8th-grader’s vendetta against non-native persecutors, including an American bullfrog who fled through the battle grounds. Ultimately the Valley Catholic 8th-graders won back much of the forest floor for the persecuted native species.

The Johnson Creek community thanks the brave 8th-graders who showed up this day to help save them from the tyranny of these thorny autocrats.

Here’s to a successful school year!

Thank you Green Team students, teachers, sponsors and supporters for successful year!

West Side Students Share Their Stories!

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Valley Catholic High School’s auditorium was abuzz with watershed restoration terms and techniques last week as students in Green Teams at Valley Catholic High School, Valley Catholic Middle School, Deer Park Academy, Mountain View Middle School and Rachel Carson Environmental Middle School joined together to present on their year long commitment to creeks near their schools.

Each of these groups of students came out weekly, monthly or just a few times over the year and were able to come away with some important lessons.  Over the course of the year, these students planted native trees and shrubs, removed invasive species, enhanced wildlife habitat, bioengineered stream banks, maintained and monitored native plants.  Lori Hennings, senior natural resource scientist at Metro, congratulated the students on their continued efforts and dedication to stream health.

Valley Catholic High School students presented on invasive reed canary grass and how they have begun controlling it at Johnson Creek behind their school with coffee bags and native plants.  Deer Park Academy students shared what they have learned about stream bioengineering, or using natural elements to help stabilize stream banks and provide shade; they did this by installing live willow stakes and fascine bundles in the banks of Willow Creek.  Rachel Carson Middle School students presented their research on native western pond and western painted turtles and how we must provide habitat for them to thrive.  Mountain View Middle School students shared their results from testing a Beaverton Creek tributary for macroinvertebrates and how this is a good indicator of water pollution.  Valley Catholic Middle School students shared their insight on Armenian blackberry removal methods and how important native plantings are for our environment.

Thanks to our friends from Clean Water Services, The Wetlands Conservancy, Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Tualatin Riverkeepers, Friends of Beaverton Creek , Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve and the Tualatin River Watershed Council for sharing the day with us and supporting our students!

THANK YOU, TEACHERS for your support of students and the Green Team program!  THANK YOU, STUDENTS for making your communities healthier places to live, work and play!  Have a wonderful summer exploring and we’ll see you in September!